I have a large extended family and so when we get together for the holidays we do it potluck style so one person isn't responsible for all the food. The hostess has to clean her house (if she wants, we don't insist) and make sure we have enough seating. She decides on the menu and sends out the sign up list to the rest of us and we pick what we want to bring. It really helps with the stress of having to plan a huge dinner for a lot of people and it gets everyone involved. I don't know when we started doing this, but I vote we never stop.
This year I signed up to bring dessert, but I had no idea what to make. So, I went on my Facebook page and asked for some dessert suggestions. I got the usual suggestions of peppermint brownies and gingerbread cookies, but I noticed that mixed in there I had a lot of people suggesting I skip the dessert and just bring booze. I know that many of my friends were joking, but it got me thinking. This is the time of year when it seems like everyone talks slash jokes about needing a drink to get through the season. Moms need the big bottle of wine to wrap presents, dads need a six-pack to hang Christmas lights, and everyone needs something a lot harder to deal with the in-laws. (I get it. I do. I wrote a whole book about the holidays for goodness sake!)
Many of the people imbibing over the holidays are doing it responsibly. They're watching their alcohol intake, eating first, and always getting a ride home from a sober driver. But we've all got that one relative who can't seem to get his or her shit together. That one relative who is a boozehound and makes an ass of themselves at every family event. The drunk uncle who wants to talk politics with everyone on the opposite side of the aisle or the drunk aunt who can't stop weeping into her drink. Family get-togethers are tough enough without that kind of nonsense to deal with! And now that my kids are 11 and 13 that sort of behavior doesn't go unnoticed. At. All. And because I'm that parent, I get alllllll the questions. (Seriously, why don't they ever ask the Hubs the hard questions???) “Hey Mom, why was Uncle Bill yelling at everyone to shut up? Hey Mom, why was Aunt Frieda fighting with Aunt Karen over money she borrowed in 1987?”
Instead of ignoring or deflecting their questions, I use the opportunity to have an open and honest conversation with my kids about responsible drinking and making good choices. We talk about why Uncle Bill and Aunt Frieda feel the need to drink so much and why they tend to drink more when they get into stressful situations. We talk about positive and healthy ways to deal with the stress that the holiday season brings. Now that I'm on my third holiday season partnering with Responsiblity.org, I am armed with all kinds of useful info. As a blogger for their Ask, Listen, Learn program, I feel confident that I can guide my kids through these tough conversations. Here are just a few of the tips I use during the holiday season to help keep my stress levels low and my drinking at a responsible limit:
- Delegate, delegate, delegate. Yes, I'm the mom, but it shouldn't all fall to me. The Hubs can wrap gifts or bake a pie. Sure, it won't be pretty, but he'll get the job done.
- Limit your time with stressful family members. If you know that your spouse's Cousin Hilda pushes your buttons, come up with a safe word so your spouse knows it's time to go. Might I suggest: “Tinsel Tits.” As in, “Hey, Tinsel Tits, this has been great, but we have that other thing we need to get to...So...Yeah...I'll be in the car.”
- Stay in your lane. Don't worry about what the neighbors are doing. Worry about you and your family. If you don't want to put up a big light display, you don't have to. If you do want to put up a big light display, then you do you. You know your comfort level. Stick to it.
- And in the immortal words of Elsa, “Let it gooooooo.” Seriously. Every day does not need to be magical and memorable and special and glitter-covered. Just spend time with the ones you love and the ones you want to be with.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!